Cassirer's Psychology of Relations: From the Psychology of Mathematics and Natural Science to the Psychology of Culture

Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy 6 (3) (2018)
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In spite of Ernst Cassirer’s criticisms of psychologism throughout Substance and Function, in the final chapter he issues a demand for a “psychology of relations” that can do justice to the subjective dimensions of mathematics and natural science. Although these remarks remain somewhat promissory, the fact that this is how Cassirer chooses to conclude Substance and Function recommends it as a topic worthy of serious consideration. In this paper, I argue that in order to work out the details of Cassirer’s psychology of relations in Substance and Function, we need to situate it within two broader frameworks. First, I position Cassirer’s view in relation to the view of psychology and logic endorsed by his Marburg Neo-Kantian predecessors, Hermann Cohen and Paul Natorp. Second, I augment Cassirer’s early account of the psychology of relations in Substance and Function with the more mature view of psychology that he presents in The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms. By placing Cassirer’s account within these contexts, I claim that we gain insight into his psychology of relations, not just as it pertains to mathematics and natural science, but to culture as a whole. Moreover, I maintain that pursuing this strategy helps shed light on one of the most controversial features of his philosophy of mathematics and natural science, viz., his theory of the a priori.

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Samantha Matherne
Harvard University

Citations of this work

Merleau‐Ponty on painting and the problem of reflection.Emma C. Jerndal - 2020 - European Journal of Philosophy 29 (1):74-89.
Philosophy of the Symbolic: Edited by Arno Schubbach.Ernst Cassirer - 2021 - Journal of Transcendental Philosophy 2 (1):167-211.

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References found in this work

The Principles of Mathematics.Bertrand Russell - 1903 - Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale 11 (4):11-12.
Kants theorie der erfahrung.Hermann Cohen - 1918 - Berlin: B. Cassirer.
Neo-Kantianism and the Roots of Anti-Psychologism.R. Lanier Anderson - 2005 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 13 (2):287-323.
Epistemology in the Aufbau.Michael Friedman - 1992 - Synthese 93 (1-2):15 - 57.

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